Low sex ratio in hindi speaking States such as Rajasthan, UP, MP, Bihar has resulted in the creation of a human trafficking network in Karnataka
Gowramma had given up all hope of seeing her daughter again. The teenaged pre-university student, Suma, had gone missing on September 29 last year, and Gowramma had spent more than six months searching for her, waiting for her. The distressed mother had not dared to file a police complaint as someone told her Suma might have “eloped” with some “boyfriend”. Worried that the police might dig up dirt on her daughter, and that her family reputation would be in tatters, Gowramma chose not to approach official channels. Then, one afternoon, in March this year, she received a phone call from an unknown number. It was her daughter, Suma, at the other end.
“In the first call, she hardly shared information about her whereabouts. She said she was doing well and cut the call. And when I tried to call her back there was no response,” the mother recalls. But Suma called again. With some more details of her whereabouts. “That when she told me she was in Rajasthan and wanted to come back.”
With her meagre salary as a garment worker, Gowramma had no idea how to reach Rajasthan to bring her daughter back. Her husband had died a few years earlier and she had a son to take care of at home. She knew she had no choice but to seek official help; she approached the district vigilance committee on human trafficking. A judge in the Karnataka High Court took note of the news report and through his subordinates contacted the police and insisted on a thorough inquiry into the case.
Thus began an elaborate operation to trace Suma in Rajasthan and bring her back to her home in Hassan.
Gowramma shared the phone numbers from which she had received the calls. Two teams, including one headed by Additional SP Jyothi Vaidyanathan, left for Rajasthan and traced Suma with the help of the numbers. “We had not heard of human trafficking in Hassan in the recent years,” said a police officer, a member of the team that visited Rajasthan.
Suma was away from home for seven months and she had travelled nearly over 3,000 kilometres in that period. She told the police she was first taken to Bengaluru by two women in Arasikere, who assured her a job. “My mother was working hard and I wanted to come home after achieving something in life. As they assured me a job I went to Bengaluru with them without informing my mother,” she said.
It did not take her long to realise that she had been caught in a trap of trafficking. She was taken to Chennai, where she was kept in a room. Many men came to see her. She did not understand what their intention was. “The trafficking team had intended to marry her off in exchange for a big sum of money. As they could not arrive at a deal in Chennai, the girl was taken to Bikaner in Rajasthan”, said Superintendent of Police R.K. Shahapurwad.
After reaching Rajasthan, she was first “married off” to an old man. The girl, however, refused to stay put with him, forcing the old man to “return” her to the broker from whom he had “purchased” her. Later, she was married to a 23-year old person, who is believed to have paid Rs.3 lakh.
Now, at 17, the girl is four months pregnant. She is being kept in a children’s home run by the Women and Child Development Department in Hassan.
Gowramma is very worried about the future of her daughter. Suma has reportedly told the officers that she would like to go through the pregnancy and support her child. She was also quite sympathetic to her husband, who, she said, did not ill-treat her.
While she wants the women who trafficked her daughter arrested and severely punished, Gowramma is sympathetic to the daughter’s husband and mother-in-law. “They have taken good care of my daughter. If my daughter wishes, she may stay with the family when all the legal issues are cleared,” she said.
The police, who investigated the case, stress the need for a special team involving senior officers to bust what they suspect is a nation-wide racket of trafficking, with the low sex ratio in some parts of the country fuelling it.
From Arasikere the girl was taken to different places, offering room to suspect the role of a wide network. “During the investigation, we could make out many girls might have been caught by this trafficking network. But, so far, in Hassan, we have not received any complaint of a similar nature. Of course, there may be girls from other places,” said R.K.Shahapurwad, SP of Hassan.
The police who went to Rajasthan have got the girl’s husband and mother-in-law, who “purchased” her into the custody. According to the sources, the efforts to nab the brokers involved in the whole incident are still on.
The low sex ratio in Rajasthan is said to be one of the reasons for the trafficking. “We need a special team with a good number of officers, who can visit different places of the country at a time and trace the brokers. I am sure, a well-planned investigation into this case will definitely bring out many horrifying stories,” said a police officer, who was part of the team.